Matthew | Like an arsonist

John the Baptizer has strong words for religious leaders; but, in the kingdom of heaven, even the most vulnerable person need not be afraid. (Listen.)

Sin. For many of us it’s a dirty word. Because many of us are recovering Christians. We are recovering from churches which preached judgement and condemnation, triggering fear and shame. We are recovering from feeling manipulated; we are recovering from the threat of hell; we are recovering from bad theology. We are recovering from mincing moralism which taught us to be afraid of our own desires. We are recovering from abusive shepherds and church leaders who stole our innocence away. We are recovering from all the ways the word ‘sin’ has been wielded like a weapon, to make us compliant and afraid. And yet, we are here. Continue reading “Matthew | Like an arsonist”

Luke | Back to the city

Our deepest liberation can set a city free.

A few years ago, when my kids were a bit younger, the movie Frozen would often be playing in my house. As kids often do, they liked to enjoy the same story again and again. I must have watched it several times myself. And sitting there watching it with my children I was drawn in. A girl called Elsa has a magical ability: she can magically create ice and snow, sending it streaming from her fingertips. And for this she is judged to be dangerous – a danger to her little sister, a danger to anyone around her. So she is locked away in her room and hidden away from everyone else in the city. Continue reading “Luke | Back to the city”

Luke | If you are God’s child …

Jesus’ resistance to the devil is grounded in knowing himself beloved. (Listen.)

*If.* It’s a very small word with a very big weight, and I hear it all the time. If only I prayed hard enough … If I were a good enough Christian … If I read my Bible more … If I just tried harder … If I really trusted God … How many times have I heard some iteration of this, sometimes from the people I listen to, sometimes within my own head? Continue reading “Luke | If you are God’s child …”

Luke | Where God’s word comes

God’s word comes the one who forsakes privilege, lives simply, works for justice … and listens. (Listen.)

Once upon a time, long, long ago, I lived in Washington, DC. We went to a church which was once Harry Truman’s, then Jimmy Carter’s; and while we were there the Clintons came a couple times. Members included presidential advisors, scientists, and journalists; officers in the military and CIA staff; senior bureaucrats and retired diplomats; professors, stockbrokers, and a governor of the Federal Reserve. A lot of power was concentrated at that church, and there were some incredibly committed and godly people. Continue reading “Luke | Where God’s word comes”

Mark | Change your thinking, claim your life

Repentance is about changing your mind, and accepting the freedom which this new perspective brings. (Listen.)

Once upon a time, long long ago, I had a great-uncle who was slightly mad. He used to parade up and down a major traffic bridge wearing a sandwich board; on it, large letters proclaimed, ‘Repent!’ I don’t know about you, but this sort of thing makes me twitchy. It’s like the time I was sitting in a tram quietly minding my own business, when a bloke I knew to be an intermittently violent psychiatric patient loomed over me and aggressively demanded, ‘Have you been saved?’ To which I replied, ‘Yes, of course,’ and immediately scrambled past him and shot off the tram.

Continue reading “Mark | Change your thinking, claim your life”

Exodus | God provides in the wilderness

The ancient story of a wilderness-wandering people invites us to ponder how God sustains us during shutdown. (Listen.)

Day after day, week after week, month after month, we have been walking in the wilderness of shutdown. School has changed. Work has changed. Church has changed; and so has everything else. Most of us are still spending time with too many family members and not enough friends; many of us are lonely, anxious, exhausted, overwhelmed. Babies are being born; children are growing; grandparents are ageing, all without loved ones attending every step. Significant milestones are passing by without our usual rituals: Birthdays. Graduations. Anniversaries. Even deaths.

Continue reading “Exodus | God provides in the wilderness”

Acts | How can we be fed by the body when the body as we know it has disappeared?

For churches grappling with the loss of physical gatherings and an uncertain future, the story of Jesus’ ascension provides a model for discernment. (Listen.)

Here at Sanctuary, yet again we have ‘gathered’ to worship via Zoom. It is wonderful that we are able to do this: To see each other’s faces and chat before and after the service; to lead each other through the liturgy; to hear the Word of God proclaimed; to pray together; and to be reminded that, through the power of the Holy Spirit which transcends time and space, we continue to be the church. Continue reading “Acts | How can we be fed by the body when the body as we know it has disappeared?”

Yes, we are celebrating Easter as planned

So there’s a question floating around the churches: Should we celebrate Easter on the scheduled date this year, or defer? (see e.g. here). It’s a great question. We are all in some form of lockdown. Here in Australia, no more than two people can meet at any given time, and we are not able to gather physically as a church for the foreseeable future. As many have pointed out, ‘quarantine’ simply means ‘forty days’: and the timing of our enforced quarantine resonates beautifully with the current season of Lent. For Lent, too, is a forty day period. During this time, we enter into the story of Jesus being thrown into the wilderness alone. It is a time of fasting, testing, and learning to rely ever more deeply on God; it is a time of being stripped down to essentials; it is a time of acknowledging our loneliness and deep spiritual poverty; it is a time of preparation before life flourishes again. The echoes with quarantine are clear. Continue reading “Yes, we are celebrating Easter as planned”

Ezekiel | A word of life to a nation in lockdown

Through the prophet Ezekiel, God promises life to a people cut off from everything they once knew. (Listen.)

The people were devastated. Family, friend and neighbour had been killed by an invading army. Bodies were abandoned, with no proper burial. Shops were shuttered; streets were emptied of life. Those who survived were in exile, and everything had changed. They could not worship in the usual places; they could not go to familiar shops or town squares; they no longer saw their friends. Continue reading “Ezekiel | A word of life to a nation in lockdown”

A bracing antidote to Christmas chaos

The prophet John provides a bracing antidote to Christmas consumer chaos. (Listen.)

It’s the second week of Advent, a time of preparation, and many of us are indeed preparing. We’re negotiating with families over who gets Christmas lunch, and who gets only Boxing Day. We’re arguing over whether to buy presents for everyone, or just the kids, or no one. We’re wondering if we can do handmade or recycled gifts, knowing we’ve left it too late, and that an avalanche of plastic is heading our way. We’re ordering hams and Christmas puddings; we’re decorating the house; we’re making lists and checking them twice. We’re juggling end-of-year events, and wading through Santa songs and pre-Christmas sales. Continue reading “A bracing antidote to Christmas chaos”

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